As a veteran of a few myself, I thought I’d write a post about the dreaded best man speech.
How you can turn that from being the most stressful and uncomfortable day of your life into an enjoyable experience, one you ‘ll look forward to in the months before the big day, and most importantly look back on as a fantastic moment in your life?
The best man speech is usually the most eagerly anticipated of them all at a wedding. It’s a huge honour to be asked and, if lucky enough to be given that responsibility, I feel you owe the groom a speech that shows his bride and both families he truly has a friend to be proud of.
Think back to that initial night when you were asked to be best man. You probably had a few drinks to celebrate, and by the end of the evening pictured yourself delivering a hilarious speech, with all the guests in stitches.
When you wake up the next morning, the realisation suddenly hits home. You are required to stand up and be funny in front of an alarmingly big group of people, mostly strangers. The tendency is to think, well, I’ll have loads of time, so I’ll start planning it a month before. Think again. This is a date in your diary which will come at you like a train.
The Preparation, “one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration”
Unless you are a natural at all this, it’s usually a case of one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration. From very early on you must start thinking hard, back to some funny times you have had and some good clean stories about the groom. Bear in mind you want to make him sound like an imbecile, but a lovable imbecile. Think about when you first came across the groom:
Preparing your speech is the perfect excuse to have a night in with a bottle of wine and think back to some memorable times together. Deconstruct their personality, does your friend have any eccentricities that will resonate with your audience?
- What were your initial impressions?
- What was he like at school or as a teenager?
- What was he like at college or university?
Maybe steer clear of mentioning former girlfriends, unless you are sure everyone in the room will be comfortable with it.
One good idea is to contact the groom’s parents. They are bound to have some tales which you can jazz up a bit to make your friend sound even more ridiculous. Remember, with a best man speech you don’t have to let the truth get in the way of a good story.
Writing the speech- Connect with the audience or Warm up the audience
Once you have around three or four good stories then you are ready to start writing the speech.
Now it’s time to really think about your audience. Find out the mix of people attending and try to weave something for everyone. Aim for your speech to be about 10 minutes. You will find that it takes longer when you deliver it on the day, ideally once all the laughter and cheering is factored in!
The opening is very important. A strong start will increase your confidence and show you have prepared. The guests will be able to tell immediately if you have not put the work in. There’s nothing worse than a best man standing up and saying he’s going to keep it short and sweet, mumbling a few lines, and then sitting back down.
It’s important to express what a privilege it is to be your friend’s best man. Show some emotion. Mention what an honour it is to be standing in such a lovely venue and in these magnificent surroundings. Naturally the bride will look stunning, so make sure you mention that, finishing the sentence with, “don’t you think so?” This guarantees a positive reaction from the guests.
The important touch of humour + involving the guests
Once you’ve taken care of those formalities the guests are sure to be on your side. Now everyone is ready for your first bit of humour, something that will cut the groom down to size. I have loads of appropriate jokes stored away if you require one. Don’t feel bad about this as the guests will fully expect it and will be looking forward to watching the groom squirm. It’s all part of the fun.
Here I’d recommend talking about how you met the groom. Aim for a story which will have everyone who knows him nodding their head in agreement and anyone who doesn’t seeing him in a new light and laughing along with you.
It’s a good idea to tell the stories in chronological order, from young to older. For example:
- one about his time at school
- one about his early adult life
- one about how he was when he met his bride to be.
Be sure to mention other friends of the groom, especially those who may be at the reception. Involving other friends will help you feel less alone up there. Try to make the transition from story to story as smooth as possible by linking them together.
The good words
Now you have successfully made fun of the groom it’s probably time to show that you actually like him!
Mention something the groom has done out of kindness, especially if it’s something others may not know about, or even a heroic act. Be sure to say how proud you are to be a friend of his. Mention his great qualities, assure the bride’s parents that their daughter is in the best possible hands. Mention how pleased you are he met his bride and how happy he seems when they are together.
Now you are on the home straight, so it’s time to build up to the toast. A nice way to do this is to say you would like to end the speech by quoting a famous philosopher or a famous songwriter. If the couple are a fan of The Beatles, for example, you could say:
“She loves you, yeah, yeah yeah, she loves you, yeah, yeah yeah, and with a love like that, you know you should be glad.“
You can follow that with:
“Now can you all stand please and join me in raising a glass to the happy couple … Here’s to love, laughter and happy ever after.”
Practice makes perfect
Ok, you have written this brilliant speech. You have read it ten times over and you’re happy with it. Now for the hard part.
I recommend you stand in front of your mirror or wherever you feel most comfortable and read the speech out loud. This can be excruciating, but the words will gradually start to go into your head. From there you can break the speech down into sections, then write it onto separate cards.
I would practice the opening of the speech time and time again. If you get that right, the confidence will build, and the rest will flow. Practice each section as many times as you need to, then start putting sections together. The more you practice, the more natural it will seem on the day and the better it will all come together.
A good idea is to watch Youtube videos of other best men strutting their stuff. You will get an idea of what works and what doesn’t. You might even find a joke or two you can throw in.
Your time to shine
So, it’s the big day, you are ready. You’ve prepared properly and have enjoyed the many other responsibilities the groom has. Time for the speech. You might require a drink to calm the nerves, but don’t have too many! If you need to, sip one or two with the meal.
You will probably be introduced by the master of ceremonies, or maybe even the groom himself.
Take a deep breath, stand up and take the applause. Ignore that shaky leg you have under the table – it will soon go away.
Take your time and enjoy the experience. Pause as much as you need to, maybe even more than you need to. Show you are in control. After the speech, the rest of the day is going to be amazing and you will always be remembered as the guy who performed that brilliant best man speech.